I don’t dislike John Barnes, actually I quite like him. He’s one of the better ex-footballers that can do TV punditry. As a player he was an amazing winger!
The one time we’ve shared a corridor, John Barnes was nice enough to smile and nod to me, as he could see I had obviously recognised him.
I fully agree that race shouldn’t be a factor when someone goes for a job. I also don’t doubt that people of ethnicity struggle in football to get the top appointments. I’d love the securing of managerial roles to become more transparent.
But none of those are reasons for John being currently unemployed.
The fact no one wants to hire him as a football manager is simply because he isn’t a great boss and it has nothing to do with his race, in my opinion.
I was a keen observer when Barnes was hired at Celtic in 1999. He was the head coach, while former Liverpool teammate and Celtic legend Kenny Dalglish was hired as his Director of Football. The partnership was christened the ‘dream team‘ by the Scottish media.
But Barnes was sacked by the end of February in 2000, with the Hoops trailing Rangers heavily in the league and Celtic suffering an infamous home Scottish Cup defeat to First Division part-times Inverness Caley Thistle, Celtic lost the game 3-1 and The Sun came up with the great headline “Super Caley go ballistic, Celtic are atrocious”.
His time in Glasgow was full of poor results, bad performances and tactical naivety.
Barnes was also unlucky at Parkhead, talismanic striker Henrik Larsson was injured early on in the season (due to a horrific leg break) and his replacement (Ian Wright) didn’t match expectations.
Barnes had the idea of implementing a high risk attacking strategy but those strategies didn’t suit the Scottish game and seemed to confuse his players.
The signings made by the Barnes/Dalglish partnership failed to catch the supporters imagination or move the club on, save Bobby Petta and Stan Petrov. Big money signings like Rafael Scheidt (£5m) and Eyal Berkovic flopped. Scheidt’s Celtic career is remembered for his surname rather than any significant performance. Berkovic (who was a then Scottish record buy at £5.75m) seemed to be more of a hinderance than a guiding light.
By the time he left, John had totally lost the support of his players. It was suggested that he was openly mocked by certain club personnel. According to Barnes, striker Mark Viduka refused to go out for the second half against Caley Thistle. That moment of contempt seemed to sum up John’s tenure in charge at Celtic Park.
The Celtic job was probably too big for Barnes, especially as it was his first. He has since hinted that he wasn’t given enough time and that race may have played a part in it.
But let me assure you, Barnes had lost the dressing room and that home defeat to Caley was the most humiliating Celtic home loss I’d seen in my years of watching Scottish football. There was no surviving that!
Plus look at Dalglish, he didn’t last much longer and he was a club legend. The squad wasn’t that bad, yet they just weren’t getting the right results or performances on the park.
Also Celtic were very proud that they were one of the very first premier clubs (if not the first) in the UK to hire a black head coach. They also spent a lot to try and give Barnes the best chance possible.
Barnes would then have to wait until 2008 for his next job, when he was appointed coach of the Jamaican national team. He seemed to start off well there but departed after only six months, stating he wanted a full-time role in club management. Leaving a job so hastily doesn’t reflect well on your CV and its suggests a lack of loyalty.
Then Barnes found himself at Prenton Park, when he was announced as the new manager of Tranmere Rovers in the summer of 2009.
He was again sacked, this time after only three full months in charge. He had lost eight of his first twelve games and won just three. Again his man-management skills and tactics were called into question. The fact that Tranmere had just missed out on the play-offs just a few months before and were now languishing at the foot of the League One table, shows how badly Barnes had done with Rovers.
Along with his Tranmere assistant Jason McAteer, the pair were dubbed ‘dumb and dumber’ by his players. When they constantly lost the manager would blame his team for lacking simple organisation skills, when it was clear they were dumbfounded by his reckless 4-2-2-2 formation.
Now when you look back at John Barnes the football manager, you don’t think of his race (or at least you shouldn’t!). You think of a boss that lost his dressing room in the two club jobs that he had and a manager who could never find a proper formation that players bought into.
Now John I suggest you look in the mirror and look past your skin colour. The fact is this, you have had three jobs as a football manager and you’ve disappointed in all of them! Sometimes great players just aren’t cut out to become great managers just ask Alan Shearer and Hristo Stoichkov!